Overview of Conceptual Framework1
Vision and Mission
Aiming to enable all people to achieve maximum benefit from their educational experiences, the
Stanford University School of Education (SUSE) seeks to continue as a world leader in ground-
breaking, cross-disciplinary inquiries that shape educational practices, their conceptual
underpinnings, and the professions that serve the enterprise. The School seeks to develop the
knowledge, wisdom, and imagination of its students, who assume leadership positions and
improve the quality of education around the globe.
Philosophy, Purposes, and Goals
The work of SUSE rests on the belief that the goal of the educational enterprise is the success of
all pupils, and that this goal should organize the connected work of both researchers and
practitioners. The School seeks to develop educators’ professional knowledge and expertise to
enable all pupils to reach intellectually and academically challenging learning goals. The
School’s work is based on the assumption that such knowledge and skill develop through
studying, acting, and reflecting in professional communities of educators. Educators act to foster
and sustain a democratic and just society in the construction, development, and use of
knowledge. Education is, therefore, both a moral and political act.
SUSE faculty and students seek to apply rigorous methods of research and scholarship to address
the challenges that arise in a variety of learning contexts and educational endeavors. The
elevation of the teaching profession is among the institution’s goals. Consistent with these
commitments, the Stanford Teacher Education Program (STEP) has the primary goal of
preparing and supporting teachers who can create equitable classrooms and schools in which all
learners meet high intellectual, academic, and social standards.
STEP is a 12-month post-baccalaureate course of study for prospective elementary and
secondary teachers. The program combines a full year of student teaching with 45 credits of
graduate coursework leading to a Master of Arts in Education and a California Preliminary
Multiple Subject or Single Subject Teaching Credential. STEP’s small cohort size2, access to
accomplished K-12 and university faculty, and coherent design offer focused coursework
interwoven with hands-on teaching experience, sustained mentoring, and personalized advising.
The program advocates teaching that is content-based and context-responsive, with a strong
emphasis on both the development of content-specific pedagogy and preparation to teach
culturally and linguistically diverse learners. The program supports the preparation of reflective
STEP’s conceptual framework originated in 1998 as part of STEP’s redesign, which was initiated when Professor
Linda Darling-Hammond came to Stanford and assumed the role of faculty adviser to the program. Dr. Darling-
Hammond and Dr. Rachel Lotan collaborated with SUSE faculty to develop a conceptual framework that drew upon
current scholarship about teaching, learning, and teacher education. The complete version of this document,
including relevant citations, is available in the STEP handbook. (See Conceptual Framework for Professional
60–80 candidates in the Single Subject Program and up to 25 in the Multiple Subject Program
practitioners who work collaboratively with other educators to inquire into learning, refine their
teaching, and solve common problems of practice.
Key Knowledge and Theories
Educators learn by studying, doing, and reflecting; by collaborating with other professionals; by
looking closely at pupils and their work; and by sharing what they see. The development of
theoretically sound professional practice cannot occur either in college classrooms divorced from
engagement in practice or in school classrooms divorced from knowledge and theories that result
from rigorous scholarship. Professional learning in both schools of education and P-12 schools
should provide opportunities for research and inquiry, for trying and testing, for talking about
and evaluating the results of learning and teaching. The intersection of theory and practice occurs
most productively when questions arise in the context of real work-in-progress, in schools and
with pupils, informed by research and disciplined inquiry.
These principles underlie the programmatic design of STEP, which brings together university-
and school-based curricula. This design integrates the many areas of knowledge that inform
effective teaching and provides opportunities for observing, planning, and practicing pedagogical
approaches in multiple clinical contexts. The capacity to look at classroom events empirically and
analytically and to merge theory and practice is critical to the process of effective teaching and
leadership. To be constructive, this reflection is informed by knowledge about learning and teaching
and based upon the effects of one's actions on learners.
Because of the situated nature of educational decision-making, STEP’s design reflects the idea that
learning to teach involves learning about practice in practice. Theories and methods encountered
in coursework resonate with practices encountered in the field and vice versa, a consistency
supported by strong relationships with partner schools in which candidates complete their field
placements. This integration of coursework and fieldwork provides opportunities to connect
theory and practice, particularly when course assignments draw on and inform the candidate’s
work in the clinical setting. Learning from practice is most effective when supported by the
guidance of experienced practitioners who model effective teaching practices and provide
targeted feedback to candidates. Cooperating teachers and supervisors serve as expert veterans
who lead candidates through a process of graduated responsibility in the clinical placement over
the course of an entire academic year.
SUSE’s approach to education assumes that learning takes place within professional
communities of practice. Researchers and practitioners alike need to know how to strengthen
their practice through sustained collaboration, an important feature of learning experiences
throughout the School of Education. To support their own ongoing learning, educators
collaborate with colleagues to plan, assess, reflect upon, and improve practice.
If educators are to ensure success for pupils who learn in different ways, have different
intellectual and academic strengths, and encounter a variety of learning challenges, then those
educators must know a great deal about the learning process and have a wide repertoire of
teaching tools at their disposal. They must be responsive to the diverse needs of individual pupils
and aware of the social, economic, and political contexts that inform classroom teaching. STEP
seeks to connect knowledge of learning, teaching, and the social contexts of education to the core
tasks of teaching: diagnosis of student strengths, interests, and needs, planning, instruction, and
assessment of learning.
STEP uses criteria for candidates’ performance that are aligned with national, state, and
institutional standards. These standards include the California Standards for the Teaching
Profession, the Teaching Performance Expectations, and the standards of the National Board for
Professional Teaching Standards. To inform the focus on developing pedagogical content
knowledge in the disciplines, STEP draws upon subject-specific national and state curricular
standards. Taken together, these standards articulate what it means to be a professional educator and
what effective teachers must know and be able to do. In particular, the addition of PACT to STEP’s
assessment system has formalized the program’s attention to the standards specified in the
California curriculum frameworks for each content area, as mandated by the state.
STEP candidates demonstrate an understanding of how pupils learn and grow, how they acquire
language, how they develop literacy in all content areas, and how they grow physically, socially,
emotionally and intellectually as individuals. Candidates show that they possess strong content
knowledge in the discipline(s) they plan to teach, as well as a repertoire of ways to teach that
content to diverse learners. STEP’s emphasis on content-specific pedagogy includes the capacity
to identify and use appropriate technological resources and tools to support learning in the
disciplines. Additionally, candidates demonstrate their ability to use a variety of formal and
informal assessments to analyze what pupils have learned and to use this information to shape
subsequent planning and instruction.
STEP further requires that candidates provide evidence that they can create classroom
communities that support all learners and value their contributions. Candidates also demonstrate
an understanding of diverse cultures and the ability to enact culturally responsive pedagogy.
They demonstrate the use of collaborative classroom structures that cultivate productive
interactions among pupils and support shared learning. Candidates build equitable classrooms
that sponsor rich discourse among academically and linguistically diverse learners and press for
disciplined reasoning on the part of all students. Candidates know how to communicate with
families about students’ progress and how to tap the funds of knowledge that students bring to
the classroom. They understand how to work with parents and families to learn more about their
students and to shape supportive experiences at school and home.
Finally, candidates are able to analyze and reflect on their practice. Individually and with others,
they assess the effects of their work to refine and improve their practice. This reflection is based
on specific evidence of student learning, drawn from multiple sources of information that include
classroom observation, written assessments and other student work, the feedback of peers and
expert practitioners, and video records of classroom practice. Candidates develop these abilities
in the context of a professional identity based on an ethos of care and a concern for ethical and
moral behavior, as well as a commitment to the highest standards of professional conduct in
working with students, families, and colleagues.
Description of Assessment System
STEP uses an assessment system that provides comprehensive and systematic data on individual
candidate qualifications and performance, as well as data about curriculum and program
outcomes. STEP considers admissions criteria for the assessment of candidates’ subject matter
preparation and their potential to become effective beginning teachers. Throughout the year
STEP uses a variety of formative assessments, including course assignments and quarterly
assessments of clinical work, to document candidates’ professional growth.
The summative assessment for all candidates is the Performance Assessment for California
Teachers (PACT), which requires candidates to assemble documentation of their teaching
practice in specific content areas. Single Subject candidates present evidence of their teaching in
the content area for which they are being credentialed, and Multiple Subject candidates
document their teaching of four key content areas—Literacy, Mathematics, History/Social
Science, and Science. Candidates must also meet Stanford University’s requirements for the
Master of Arts degree, as well as state-approved requirements for the Preliminary Credential.
After candidates have completed the program, STEP administers a variety of survey instruments
to collect data from graduates and employers, and uses this information to inform program
Changes to Conceptual Framework
Significant programmatic changes have shaped the overview of the conceptual framework.
Since the last accreditation cycle, SUSE’s Prospective Principals Program has been discontinued,
and STEP has expanded to include a Multiple Subject Credential program. The updated
overview of the conceptual framework also reflects the centrality of assessment, both the ability
of teacher candidates to assess the learning of their own pupils, as well as the ability of the
teacher preparation program to assess candidates’ preparedness for the teaching profession. The
addition of PACT to STEP’s assessment system has substantially enhanced the program’s ability
to draw on reliable sources of evidence in evaluating the program’s effectiveness in preparing
Most recently, STEP’s relationships with Teachers for a New Era and the Woodrow Wilson
Foundation have highlighted the connections between programs in the education school and
those in the humanities and sciences. These collaborations have also informed STEP’s attention
to the continuum of teacher development, beginning in the undergraduate years and extending
into the early years of independent practice.
These developments, as well as the arrival of new faculty members, will lead to a review of the
conceptual framework so that it can be updated to include the most recent scholarship in the field
and to reflect programmatic changes. This process is slated to begin in the fall of 2008.